Boxing Day/Week

This is alternately a dreary/depressing post-Christmas letdown time of year, or a fun, lie-on-the-couch and eat too much week where one doesn’t even bother with the theatre of pretending to be productive. I am kind of in a combined state of the two – I know I will regret that I did not use this week effectively, though. This article outlines what’s fun about this time of year and it occurs to me I should not be so hard on myself. What’s wrong with a slovenly week? Probably not much, except that I have had many of those in the past year(s) and it needs to stop.

The British call this week “Boxing Week,” an extension of the more formal holiday Boxing Day, on December 26. Boxing Day is an older tradition that may stem from wealthy families giving presents to their household staff the day after Christmas; in its current form, it is a day to box up and get rid of extra stuff, or regift unwanted gifts. Boxing Week has become an excuse for Black Friday–type sales and the accumulation of more stuff. In Norwegian, Dead Week is known as romjul, a word that combines the Norse words for “room” or “space” and Jul, or “Yule”; it literally means “time and space for celebrating the yuletide.” But it also echoes the Old Norse word rúmheilagr, which means “not adhering to the rules of any particular holiday.” The week has neither the religious gravity of Christmas nor the flat-out party atmosphere of New Year’s Eve, but is stuck halfway between one and the other.

The Boxing Day references brings up a memory for me: I was living in Paris, studying and being an au pair and I had an American friend, Anne (not her real name – her real name was Mara). She was kind and fun but she had this pretentious boyfriend. One day they were asking about Boxing Day – what is it? Why is it called that? And so forth. I explained the origins and as I was from a country with Boxing Day, I assumed that was enough. Oh no, the arrogant boyfriend said, with a smirk. That can’t be it! He laughed and turned to Anne and – to my dismay – she joined in the general mockery of what I had said. Seriously? They then went on to offer other suggestions as to why it was called “Boxing Day” – it was a conversation between the two of them, as though I was not even in the room. Unkind and condescending. (One of their brilliant ideas? That it had to do with the Boxer Rebellion. Sheesh.) Which makes me ask – why do I even remember this unpleasant incident? It was hardly a huge event in my life and I know my friend’s kindnesses far outweighed it. This article attempts to explain why (some) bad memories stick in our craws and our memory banks.

I hope this Boxing Week finds you, my dear readers – and Anne, wherever she is – well.